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Liberal Talk Radio: Would You Miss It?

Ed Schultz is worried that the Sandra Fluke backlash against Rush Limbaugh will hurt talk radio at both ends of the spectrum:

[A]t the Talkers New Media Seminar on June 7 in New York City, Schultz broke with the progressive community and criticized it for going after Limbaugh. “If we start attacking advertisers because of what somebody said — it’s the wrong thing to do.”…. Schultz was concerned that other talk radio hosts would be collateral damage in what was supposed to be a precision strike on Limbaugh. “Don’t attack advertisers. It’s too hard in the spoken word,” he said…. The concern is not an idle one. Interviews with industry insiders on the left and right reveal that Schultz’ fears were well founded: Corporate advertisers, in the wake of the Limbaugh-Fluke controversy, have broadly pulled back from talk radio across the political spectrum, unwilling to take the risk of being associated with comments that could offend half or more of their customer base.

This may not be a popular stance, but if we could take down right-wing hate radio at the expense of liberal talk radio, I would make that trade in a heartbeat.  Talk radio tilts so far to the right that the harm the right-wing talkies inflict far outweighs the good that progressive radio could ever hope to accomplish.

But it’s that “if” that I’m hung up on.  Liberal radio has always been much more financially precarious, and doesn’t have the sugar daddy support system that conservative radio (and conservative everything else) has.  So if attacks on projectile haters like Limbaugh make advertisers squeamish about advertising on any political shows, it could actually result in a talk radio space that’s even more lopsided than it is now.

And yet despite all that, I still can’t bring myself to advocate giving Rush and his ilk a free pass to say whatever they like without consequences.  Even if the loss of advertisers doesn’t drive them off the air (and remember, that would be free enterprise at work, not censorship), it’s still worthwhile to broaden public awareness of the bile the right is spewing.  The die-hard fans are a lost cause, but if every non-crazy person’s reaction to the words “Rush Limbaugh says…” is “Oh yeah, he’s that guy that calls women whores.  Why should I listen to anything he says?”, this country will be a much better place.

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